Public Party to Kick Off Finals for America's Cup

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The America's Cup has been criticized for costing too much money to watch and compete in, but tonight the international sailing regatta offers one of its few free, easily accessible, open-to-the-public events.

It's a party!

Parading under the banner of "opening ceremonies," the event that seems to have been here forever finally gets under way--officially--with a lavish music-and-fireworks show at the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego beginning at 5 p.m.

It's expected to last three hours and features everyone from Gov. Pete Wilson and Mayor Maureen O'Connor to acting Postmaster General Michael S. Couglin, who will unveil an America's Cup postcard.

Other highlights include appearances by the competitors--skipper and crew from America 3, the defenders, and from Il Moro de Venezia, the Italian challenger--as well as free U.S. and Italian flags and free admission to the America's Cup Museum.

There will also be food, a Navy band and the Wayne Foster Entertainers, as well as a sunset over San Diego Bay.

Congressional candidate Lynn Schenk, who, in her position as a commissioner with the San Diego Unified Port District, opposed the expenditure of large amounts of public money for the race, said she happily approved the $40,000 earmarked for this event.

"It's highly accessible, anyone can go, you can even get there by the trolley," Schenk said. "It doesn't matter how much money you make, or who you are, this event is for you--the general public. I hope everyone enjoys it."

Jim Kelly, a commentator for ESPN, the cable sports network televising the regatta, will serve as master of ceremonies, and even the Cup itself--at 140 years of age, the oldest trophy in sports history--will be on hand.

The first race in the finals is Saturday.

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